5 September 2022
Red background with book titled Cark and Division by Naomi Hirahara

This is the ninth year that Arlington Heights Memorial Library (AHML) invites the community to read the same book at the same time and share the experience through related programs and book discussions. This year, in particular, the book has a meaningful connection to Chicago, with local ties that unearth a buried piece of American history and the Japanese American community. After receiving 29 nominated titles by staff library-wide, our selection process involved 15 library staff members across 7 departments and a final vote from our Leadership team. 

Set in Chicago in 1944, Clark and Division by Naomi Hirahara is a meticulously researched historical fiction and gripping mystery set against the backdrop of World War II and the incarceration of Japanese Americans in internment camps. At AHML, we look for a book to support our library’s commitment to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, and through different programs, book discussions, and outreach efforts, we purposely engage our community as a whole. 

Clark and Division open a window toward a discussion of historic racism and hate crimes against Asian Americans that have not been spoken about enough. With 14 adult programs of different historical, cultural, and culinary varieties, 10 book discussions around town, 4 programs for kids, tweens, and teens, and an evening in-person with the author, we hope that our community gets excited to join in the conversation about this delightful mystery, while also recognizing the contributions of Japanese Americans in the Chicago area and beyond. 

Arlington Heights is the home of a large population of Japanese, and Japanese Americans.  In fact, 29% of our ESL department at the library is Japanese immigrants who have moved to this area and come to us to learn and improve their spoken English. We are incredibly proud to have two ESL advisors fluent in Japanese and through a volunteer-run program, to offer an English for Japanese speakers beginners’ group for those who have just arrived or have limited English. 

We are thrilled to engage not only our general adult audience but to extend discussions and programs to our ESL students such as participating in our upcoming culinary program, ESL Japanese Tea Workshop, which welcomes all ESL students from different nationalities and backgrounds and gives them an opportunity to practice their English skills and engage in conversation, while also gaining hands-on experience with Japanese tea. This program is facilitated by a resident, tea expert, and member of our ESL community in Arlington Heights in our new Makerspace Kitchen. 

Young readers are also invited to be part of our OBOV 2022 through a variety of youth programs and by checking out our selection for kids Fish for Jimmy by Katie Yamasaki: Inspired by One Family’s Experience in a Japanese American internment Camp, for Tweens, Dash by Kirby Larson, and for teens, We Are Not Free by Traci Chee.  

During OBOV season, customers will have the opportunity to discuss the book virtually and in person from different locations around town, including restaurants, the Senior Center, and Kinokuniya Chicago Bookstore inside of Mitsuwa Marketplace. Kinokuniya and Mitsuwa are surrounded by a well-established Japanese community, and we are delighted to include them in this way as we connect with more readers, residents, and visitors of Arlington Heights. 

We couldn’t be more excited for the beautiful partnerships that OBOV 2022 season is bringing to us, such as a closer relationship and collaborations with the Japan America Society of Chicago and the many other businesses and community members of the Japanese American community in Chicago and the Northwest Suburbs. 

For the first time since 2019, OBOV 2022 will culminate with an in-person visit by the author on Thursday, October 27. Naomi Hirahara will be joined in conversation with historian Erik Matsunaga, author, and historian of Chicago’s Japanese American community. This event will also be streamed live. After having only been announced for a few days, we have received a tremendous and positive response from our community. Currently, all book copies are checked out. We are extremely proud and excited about these meaningful connections, and we invite everyone in or outside of Arlington Heights either through an online or in-person program to join this joy. 

Attend a Discussion: https://www.ahml.info/content/attend-discussion-1 

Join a Program: https://www.ahml.info/onebook/programs 

Enjoy of this interactive map with Chicago locations mentioned in the book, created and compiled by our librarians: https://www.ahml.info/content/interactive-map 

Today's guest blog post is by Catalina Shin, She/Her/Hers, Community Engagement Liaison for the Arlington Heights Memorial Library and member of My Library Is... Advisory Team